“What are you gonna be for Halloween?” came the eager question from several seats back on my school bus. It’s an exciting time of year for kids. Regalia is discussed at length, with a few children always trying to outdo their friends.
“Yours is okay, but mine’s better,” they’ll pipe. “My costume blows up and runs on batteries!”
Times have changed. I strolled through a costume store last night, and while the selection and quality are remarkable, the cost is quite high.
Back in my day (yes, we did celebrate Halloween back then), outfits were concocted at home from bedsheets, cardboard, and your father’s old work clothes. I speak from experience. If I had a nickel for every time I wore dad’s holey jeans, tattered coat, and battered cowboy hat on Halloween, well, I’d have about 25 cents. (Not a good example).
Back then, if a costume was purchased, it was made of plastic, and worn over your winter jacket, much like slipping into a bargain brand garbage bag for an evening out. It tied at the back and was printed with the image of a superhero, fireman, doctor, etc. Complete with a matching face mask of harder plastic that strapped to your head with a length of flimsy elastic, and was sure to break partway through the evening, it was the best money could buy.
Apart from the fact the eye holes were never in the right place to actually see, your face became slick with sweat, and you sounded like Darth Vader on a hot summer day, it was great.
Sometimes people would make us kids sing a song for candy. A muffled rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ would then ensue, leaving the occupants of this home shaking their heads at “…young people these days”.
I loved trick-or-treating and continued going out until fourteen – or so. Embarrassment followed this rash decision. With friends, I stepped up to the first door. I wore filthy overalls that had recently seen the inside of a grain bin, cowboy boots run-down at the heel, and an old straw hat. Confidently, I rang the bell, only to be greeted by a boy two years my junior. Rats! I tipped my hat over flushed cheeks and hoped he wouldn’t notice.
“Hey,” he said in shocked amazement, dropping candy into my sack. “Aren’t you Helen Row? And older than me?”
If I’d been sporting the plastic mask this would never have happened. As it was I sheepishly accepted my treat and slunk into the darkness, never to Halloween again.
One year my boyfriend and I dressed up as bags of potatoes for a party. I bought us brown leotards, turtleneck sweaters, and balaclavas. Then, we cut holes in the bottom of burlap gunny sacks to wear around our mid-sections and tie at our necks. After stuffing the bags with padding, I felt pleased with the result. At least, I was pleased until one of us kept getting wolf whistles and compliments on our great legs—and it wasn’t me. What a downer. (My boyfriend wasn’t happy about it either.)
In any case, Halloween is here again and whether you spend a bundle, or create a costume from things you have at home, it’s all fun and games.